Photography by Otto Masters
Styling by Eve Bailey
In 1890, Selma Lagerlöf published excerpts from her work, Gösta Berling’s Saga, in a weekly Swedish newspaper. Characterised by raw personality, lyrical prose and vivid imaginative potency, which refuted the dominant realism and naturalism of the late 19th century, the book was emblematic of Lagerlöf’s psychedelic, folklore-inspired style. Gösta Berling’s Saga was published as a book in 1891 but went largely uncelebrated until its translation into Danish in 1898 received wide critical acclaim, paving the way for the book’s lasting success in Europe and beyond, culminating in Lagerlöf becoming the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909.
Established by Achille Maramotti in 1951 to empower a new generation of economically emancipated women, Max Mara seeks out its creative spark in the fiercely feminist and for its Resort 2024 collection, the Italian brand relocated to Scandinavia to honour Lagerlöf’s legacy. The fashion house hosted its runway show at the Stockholm City Hall, one of Sweden’s most revered architectural marvels, standing at 106 metres on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island and surrounded by the glimmering water of Riddarfjärden Bay.
Designed by Ragnar Östberg at the turn of the 20th century, the building borrows from the Italian Renaissance, Swedish baroque and the national romantic style, which all come together in largely Swedish-sourced materials, from granite taken from the Stockholm archipelago to marble ploughed from the Kolmården, a forested rocky ridge south of the city. But the monumental building, which first opened its door on Midsummer Eve a century ago, is perhaps most famously the site for the annual Nobel Prize banquet, making it a fitting backdrop for Max Mara’s tribute to Lagerlöf. Inspired by both Lagerlöf’s commitment to social change and progress and her neo-folkloric short stories rooted in European myths and fables, the collection showcased creative director Ian Griffiths’ enduring aptitude in composing narratives from multiple and often contradictory sources through the medium of design.
Chintzy floral prints in delicate chiffon and traditional embroidered blouses were given a contemporary update, fitted with contrasting collars and oversized cuffs. Midsummer ran through the collection to full effect with flower headdresses, pompom and tassel embellishments, offset by black open bow ties and signature sweeping camel coats: a collection of old and new, free-flowing and tailored.
This journey to a faraway land marks the continuation of Max Mara’s Resort showcases across the world, which have seen the house take audiences to Lisbon’s Garden of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, inspired by Portuguese author, intellectual and activist Natália Correia; Berlin’s Neues Museum, to honour Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie; and the Italian Isle of Ischia, guided by Truman Capote’s 1950 essay on the island, Local Color.
Max Mara proves that fashion can traverse borders while celebrating regional artistic and political legends. Lagerlöf’s 19th-century folklore, derived from the mystical qualities of environment – the cold of the air, the sheer pine forests, the sense of animation suggested in the still water and dark, pungent earth – is celebrated for its specificity while elevated to the international stage, in a contemporary collection of spellbinding power. ◉